Tephie's Personal Bombshelter MarkII

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June 2nd, 2016

More adventures in sugarless cakes

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Looking back it seems I completely did not blog about the two cakes I made in March and May.

March was an attempt on German Chocolate Cake without sugar. It was not terribly successful and became less so recently when I realized the likely fall out.

The cake itself was too dry. This a failure of recipe and not so much the sugar/stevia switch. I started with an "intense chocolate bread" recipe, trying to start with a dense product so the lack of structure from the sugar would be less of an issue. It was, unsurprisingly in hindsight, rather dry and could have been sweeter. It did give me ideas about future from scratch cake making, largely with Greek yogurt I replaced the sour cream with. Stevia makes a much stiffer batter than sugar does so it also required a bit more liquid to get it to even consider spreading into the pan.

Next time I will try taking my favorite chocolate cake recipe (the one that has more sugar than flour in it) and try that with stevia or Splenda with added Greek yogurt. Perhaps just a straight out Splenda for sugar switch for one attempt and stevia and yogurt for another.

The frosting was really tasty! And I should never, ever make it again.

For the coconut pecan frosting I used unsweetened flaked coconut, chopped pecans, and a jar of Smucker's Sugar Free Caramel Topping. Basically just stir in coconut and pecans until the texture is right. This was surprisingly similar to the completely from scratch with sugar and corn syrup frosting I used to make when I was a teenager.

So why should I never, ever make this frosting again? Sorbitol. It's just a theory right now, but I had a pretty rough month from the intestinal point of view and no idea what it was causing it. I had been eating things with sugar alcohols for a couple years and didn't have any problems so it just did not occur to me until this week to put the observations of the last few months through some hard study. The lovely chocolates and ice creams I have been enjoying all use malitol. Smucker's uses malitol and sorbitol in their sugar free caramel and hot fudge toppings. Which I started eating just before my intestines decided to stage a revolt. So I am going to avoid sorbitol for a while and then conduct a potentially unpleasant experiment involving a caramel hot fudge sundae or two.

May was another stab at doctoring up a box mix, this time Pillsbury Sugar Free Yellow Cake Mix. I did this one up as a lemon cake with straight from the can Pillsbury Sugar Free Vanilla Frosting.

Success! I added an egg, a box of cook and serve sugar free vanilla pudding powder, and lemon extract to the box mix instructions. It was still a bit fragile but much more like a boxed mix with sugar would be so I am happy with it. I will say that Watkins lemon extract is not as nice as it was 30 years ago and I will search out a more concentrated flavoring when this bottle is gone.

January 28th, 2016

Improving Sugar-Free Chocolate Cake

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Sugar-free products have come a long way since the early 1980s when I first tasted them, and these days most of the sugar-free and no sugar added things we can buy are pretty awesome (go get yourself some Russel Stover sugar-free chocolates, the dark chocolate pecan delights are my favorite) but the baked goods are definitely lagging behind. It's not really a taste thing with most of them, it's texture and depth of flavor that's a problem, cookies tend toward crisp rather than chewy and cakes can be fragile. This is because of the things that sugar does other than make things sweet, like keep them moist and add structure.

Now, I will say, there is nothing I would do to improve Pillsbury's Fudge Brownie Mix, if you like a heavy fudge brownie they have you covered. Their Devil's Food cake mix though... it's tasty, and when you haven't had cake in ages due to sugar it's pretty freaking awesome, but it's merely a mediocre chocolate cake. It's light and fragile and not really that chocolate-y. So today I am experimenting.

After doing a bit a research on what to do to a boxed cake mix to make it taste more like "bakery" cake (from what I see, people mean "from scratch") I have decided to do the following:

1. Add an egg. Every site I found on the subject says to add an egg, so I am. The box says use three so I'm using four. The egg should help with the texture and fragility issue. They also say use melted butter rather than oil but I'm sticking with oil this time.

2. Add flavorings. I'm adding one third cup of cocoa powder. Sites suggest adding coffee; brewed, instant, or espresso powder depending on the site. I'm skipping that for now and sticking with the cocoa.

3. Use boiling water rather than whatever temperature you get it from the tap. Boiling water makes the cocoa powder bloom for fuller flavor. I have to say it's always made my favorite from scratch chocolate cake extra awesome so I figure it's a good bet on improving the box.

So the cake is in the oven now and I'm going to hold off on messing with the frosting until it's out and cooled.

Frosting. This is where Pillsbury has failed me. I'm really not fond of the canned Chocolate Fudge Frosting they make. The flavor is weak and chemical. It's bad snack food chocolate frosting is what I am saying, edible but not really enjoyable and cake should be joyful.

Sites were a bit less useful for fixing up frosting, at least if you are avoiding sugar. I can't do the one thing they all say to do, which is to beat in powdered sugar. The reasoning behind doing that seems to be mostly for fixing texture though, and since the flavor also needs help this is my plan:

1. Add cocoa powder. This should take care of the texture part of what the powdered sugar was doing and also help with the weak chemical chocolate thing.

1a. If it needs more sweetening to deal with the cocoa I will add a bit of liquid stevia. I have vanilla and English toffee flavors as well as plain which goes well with the next step.

2. Add flavoring. A bit of vanilla couldn't hurt.

Another suggestion I saw was to add peanut butter, which is something I will save for another day.

I may have to try the vanilla sugar-free frosting Pillsbury also has (they have yellow cake mix too, which is fragile but tasty). I can make that into a peanut butter or cream cheese frosting, or just add flavor for things like lemon. The yellow cake mix is bound to be made into a lemon cake here someday.

Another idea I have for frosting experiments involves Smuckers Sugar-Free Caramel Sauce, flaked (unsweetened) coconut, and pecans. German Chocolate Cake is one of my favorites. :)

I will update with the taste results after thorough sampling.


Update: Added 2 Tbsp cocoa powder and 1 tsp vanilla to the frosting. It's better but still has that sharp chemical after taste. If I want chocolate frosting that I actually like I will have to come up with something else. I'm leaning toward making ganache at this point. It won't be sugar-free due to the cream having natural sugars, but it will be at least low sugar.

As for the cake, the egg did help a bit on the fragility. I think next time I will do still more cocoa powder and maybe try the butter instead of oil thing. I like a dark dense

December 25th, 2011

Applesauce Pie

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I've tweaked this a bit from the original, and I'm including some tweaks I haven't tried yet but I am certain will work.

You will need a crust for a single crust 9" pie. I like using a shortbread crust for my sweet pies. The recipe makes enough for a double crust 9" pie but it freezes well, so you can save the second half of the dough rather than cutting the recipe.

Since my crust has a lot of butter in it I omitted the one tablespoon of soft butter that the original recipe requires to be rubbed over the crust before filling.

Pie Filling:

1/4 c + 1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 c applesauce

Optional crumb topping:

1/2 c chopped walnuts
1/2 c flour
1/3 c brown sugar
3 Tbsp soft butter*

Preheat your oven to 450°F

Prepare pie filling by blending the sugar and cinnamon together to avoid cinnamon lumps in the finished pie. Beat in eggs, then add the vanilla and apple sauce. Pour into your prepared pie crust. If you aren't using the optional crumb topping, dust the top of the pie with cinnamon.

To prepare the crumb topping combine all ingredients in a small zipper bag (sandwich size works perfectly) and massage until well mixed and crumbly. Sprinkle over the pie filling. Some of it will probably sink into the pie.

Bake the pie at 450°F for 15 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for 30 additional minutes.

Cool completely before serving.



* This is the untested tweak. The original crumb topping recipe called for 1/3 cup of butter. The pie with this butter rich version of the crumble is in the oven right at this moment so I can't tell you if it worked yet, but I think less butter would be better in any case.

December 5th, 2010

Banana Bread

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Hafoc on LJ and I have differing views on what constitutes a ripe banana. He likes them just turned yellow, I like them freckled. Normally this works out well, he gets a big hand of bananas and eats them until they start to freckle and then I finish them off. As a result we don't have too many instances of multiple over ripe bananas.

However he bought a large hand of bananas and then left for ten days. I waited until they started to freckle and then did my best to get through them all myself but eventually you just have to admit that you aren't going to get through them all before they rot. So today, on what I judged was the day before ripe ticked over into over ripe, I made banana bread.

1/2 c butter, softened
3/4 c brown sugar
2 eggs
2 1/3 c mashed ripe bananas
1 tsp vanilla
2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F, grease a 9x5" loaf pan.

Since I was feeling lazy and didn't want to clear a spot for my big KitchenAid stand mixer I mixed this up by hand with a "wooden spoon" made of plastic. Had I had my mixer out I would have done the standard method, cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs, banana, and vanilla, then add the dry ingredients. Instead I mashed the butter and sugar together with the back of the spoon until I had a well blended paste then beat it a bit before adding the salt and soda by sprinkling it over the butter mixture and then beating it in. Then I added the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla and bananas. When those were well mixed I added the flour one cup at a time and sort of folded and stirred to wet it down before beating it a bit.

Pour the batter into the pan and smack it down on the counter a couple times to get it to settle.

Bake for 60-65 minutes or until a toothpick (or knife or cake tester or whatever) poked in the center comes out clean.

Cool 10 minutes in the pan, turn out onto a rack, cool completely.

November 25th, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving - Canned Peach Pie

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Even though it's just the two of us, I do cook a fair spread for the holiday. This year I'm trying a new pie recipe and if I weren't still stuffed full of turkey and all the trimmings I might be able to tell you if it turned out tasty or not.

You'll need a double pie crust for this (one in the pie plate, one over the filling) and a 9" pie plate. My favorite crust for sweet pies is a shortbread crust and conveniently the recipe makes a double crust. :)

Filling:
3 15oz cans sliced peaches1
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp butter

Drain the peaches, reserving the juice/syrup. There should be 1-11/2 cups.

In a sauce pan, blend together the sugars, cornstarch, and spices. Stir in the reserved peach juice and add the butter. Cook on medium-low heat until the butter melts and the mixture thickens.2

Take your thickened syrup off the heat and let it cool, stirring occasionally. You want to get it down to just warm or room temperature.

Line your pie plate with one of the crusts, add the drained peaches. Pour the syrup over the peaches. You may have a touch more syrup than you need to fill your pie. Add the other layer of crust over the top and seal the edges as you prefer. Cut vent holes in the top crust.

Bake at 450°F for about 30 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Cool before slicing.



1. The original recipe didn't specify whether they should be in juice, light syrup, or heavy syrup. Mine were accidentally purchased "no sugar added, sweetened with Splenda" and this was an attempt to make them tasty.

2. The original recipe was once again unhelpful for how long to cook it so I let it bubble as I stirred for five minutes. You want this to be thick, otherwise when you cut your pie later it will run all over.

October 7th, 2009

Better Mug Cake

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Lately it seems I can't read recipes in comments without hitting on the infamous Mug Cake. Now for an emergency chocolate hit it's okay but the texture was always too... meaty, for lack of a better term, for my taste. This is undoubtedly due to the lack of leavening and the fact that there is a whole egg in one large coffee mug worth of cake. So I played around a bit, adding a pinch of salt, a smidge of baking soda, things of that sort, and managed to make it taste a bit better but it still didn't really have a cake texture in my opinion. So I tossed the "must fit in a coffee mug" requirement and came up with this.

Coffee Soup Mug Cake

This may work with a smaller mug, but to be safe get yourself a 20 oz mug of some sort. Spray the inside of the mug with your preferred cooking spray.

Mix up in the mug:

1/4 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
3 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp baking soda

Blend these dry ingredients before adding the following wet ones, it will make things easier.

1 egg
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla

Mix well.

Microwave on high for 3-31/2 minutes. The cake will rise above the level of the mug!

Be sure to center the mug in your microwave so the cake will cook evenly and to minimize the chance of a spill over (I've only had it dribble over once, and the mug was not centered in the oven so there was a bit of a tilt, and the small dribble didn't make it all the way down the side of the mug so it was easy to clean up).

You may need a friend to help you eat it, or be greedy and save half for later. ;)
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